For victims and their families affected by the Nxivm sex cult, 2019 was a year of reckoning.
In June, Keith Raniere was found guilty of sex trafficking, racketeering and other felonies related to the self-help group he co-founded and its secret cult after weeks of explosive testimony. Within Nxivm was a "sorority" called "DOS," short for Dominus Obsequious Sororium, or Master Over Slave Women. Months prior, Smallville actress Allison Mack admitted to being a member and founding the women-branding group. Mack, who prosecutors say was one of Nxivm's highest-ranking members, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and racketeering. As part of her guilty plea, Mack admitted to state law extortion and forced labor.
While Raniere is behind bars, Mack is out on bail awaiting sentencing — but it's likely she will spend time in prison.
"Allison Mack is facing a total of 40 years maximum confinement time in the two charges she plead guilty to in federal court," Silva Megerditchian, criminal defence attorney and CEO of Los Angeles-based SLM Law, tells Yahoo Entertainment. "At this stage, sentencing has been delayed, likely for both sides to put together a sentencing memorandum for the judge."
In April, Mack tearfully addressed the court when changing her plea from not guilty to guilty. "I must take full responsibility for my conduct and that is why I am pleading guilty today. I am and will be a better person as a result of this," she said, adding, "Through it all, I believed Keith Raniere's intentions were to help people. I was wrong."
Megerditchian believes Mack's defence team will use her emotional confession when pushing for as little time as possible behind bars.
"They will likely use a lot of mitigation to show Ms. Mack is apologetic and learned from her crimes," she explains. "Ms. Mack has a lot going for her for mitigation purposes: The defence will likely argue she has no record, was apologetic and tearful in court. That she took full responsibility for her actions, and admitted in court to joining the Nxivm secret [sorority] to find purpose in her life — and was likely brainwashed by its leader and used as a sex slave for his benefit."
San Diego criminal defense attorney David P. Shapiro agrees that Mack's remorse will factor into her sentence.
"While Ms. Mack’s exact sentence is yet to be determined, her emotional reaction and apparent feelings of remorse on display during her plea agreement earlier this year certainly set an appropriate tone her defence team will likely echo when it comes time for her to receive final judgment by the federal court," he tells Yahoo Entertainment. "How much, if at all, she aided in the conviction of Keith Raniere, will also factor in to how harsh a sentence she receives."
Megerditchian also points out that the defence will also "try to have the judge view her as a victim herself."
She adds, "Another huge impact for sentencing is if Ms. Mack were to work with the prosecution — cooperating and giving them information against Nxivm and Mr. Raniere. It is unclear at this point whether she cooperated with the prosecution, but if she does, that alone can considerably lower her sentence."
It's believed Mack worked with prosecutors as she ultimately pleaded guilty to fewer charges. Initially, the TV star pleaded not guilty to a slew of charges including sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. Prosecutors say Mack, a "slave master," directed women to engage in sexual activity with Raniere. During Raneire's trial, witness testimony placed Mack at the centre of his cult. It's why Megerditchian believes prosecutors will argue for "a maximum sentence."
"They will likely argue that Ms. Mack was intimately involved in the inner workings of the group and the group’s leader, Mr. Raniere," she notes. "Though apologetic now, they will likely show she used her influence as a star in a successful television show to recruit women into the cult. That she even had her own initials carved into the women."
Mack, who appeared on CW's Smallville from 2001 to 2011, branded women in the group with her and Raniere's initials.
"Though stating she was lost and a victim of Nxivm to the court, the prosecution will likely state that Ms. Mack was a 'shot caller' for the organisation and adversely affected countless women’s lives — and that she should have known better," Megerditchian continues. "It looks like Ms. Mack also took part in various acts with women she recruited for Mr. Raniere. The fact she not only was a member, but also was so involved in the recruitment of the organisation, will really count against her for sentencing purposes."
As for the amount of prison time Mack will likely serve, Megerditchian says it's "hard to say where the judge will land."
"But because of the level of lurid facts in the case, and the amount of women who suffered because of this organisation, and the media focus on the case, I believe Ms. Mack will serve a substantial amount of time in federal prison," she concludes.
A date for Mack’s sentencing has yet to be announced.